Office 365 in Architecture

Aug 14, 2015

Summary

The architecture firm Jürgen Schlake uses Office 365 to increase mobility and data security. The main requirement of the customer was to be able to access the reference documentation such as project plans and drawings from various devices like laptop, tablet and smartphone anytime and anywhere. Data migration to the cloud not only helped in reducing the IT costs but also paved the way for a process and data harmonization.

With this approach, architecture firms can act as a data hub in the field of construction and perform process and site control management successfully.

Field of Business

The architectural firm Jürgen Schlake (AJS) comprises twenty employees and realises projects throughout the Country. Its customers are mainly enterprises and private users. The firm has grown significantly in recent years and stood before the decision to either invest in an in-house IT infrastructure or to outsource it to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud.

Motivation

As architects spend a large proportion of their working time outside the office, e.g. in inspecting construction progress, consulting with customers, suppliers and craftsmen, an access to current design documentation is often necessary. Prior to using the Office 365 cloud Jürgen Schlake and his employees used to copy relevant project documents before leaving the office on different media such as notebook or USB flash drive or a printout – which was obviously an expensive and tedious job. And yet often some documents were missing or only an older version was available. For the data processing and storage and an archiving in the office as well as the exchange of documents with customers also had to be made to maintain the hardware and software of the IT systems currently. Another big concern was data processing, storage and archiving in the firm as well as sharing of documentation within teams and with external customers.

Project Realisation

The project was carried out in two phases. In the first phase Axtrion analyzed the existing IT infrastructure with regard to soft and Hardware. Axtrion documented all the data and the existing processes since the establishment of the architectural office in 2006. Direct access to the existing email server (Kerio) for a cut over migration was technically not possible, therefore the new Outlook 2013 clients were installed and then connected to the Kerio server to export the email data in form of PST files for each user. Due to the large amounts of user email data a high-performance network was required for the data migration. For this purpose Axtrion deployed virtual machine instances on Microsoft Azure platform to migrate the data from the PST files to Microsoft Exchange Online using the high network bandwidth (> 50Mbit upstream to Exchange Online).

After completion of the setup of Exchange Online server and the data migration all the mobile devices were connected to the Office 365 user accounts.

In order to optimize its documentation management Axtrion advised the customer about the importance of improving the existing data nomenclature. Today the project documents are managed in project sites within SharePoint Online. For better management of and collaboration on project specific documents public folders have been created in Exchange Online. These project folders provide a storage space of 2.5 TB and serve as a project level collaboration platform for all the employees involved in the projects. Furthermore, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage is used to perform backup by capturing the snapshots of e-mail data.

Beside the technical project realisation Axtrion provided training and support to the staff.

Benefits

Today the AJS employees save a significant amount of time in the preparation of meetings and out of house appointments, because they always have all project documents available on their mobile devices.

The data management via an IT system outside the firm premises means a considerable cost reduction with respect to the maintenance costs of soft and hardware.

Organization of project related data in public folders has significantly contributed toward a better teamwork. Improvement in the nomenclature and centralised storage of project specific data resulted in tremendous increase of data transparency that led to better internal and external communication in projects. A professional data backup and archiving approach is present. An effective access control mechanism helps in averting any intended or accidental deletion of data by unauthorized users.

Axtrion consulted us very well about the constructive use of modern information technologies as well as the transformation, harmonization and optimization of our business processes. By switching to Microsoft Office 365, and by reorganizing our project-related emails in Public Folder structures, we have gained a high degree of transparency in our project business. Furthermore, mobile access to the data anytime, anywhere is guaranteed.

Jürgen Schlake

Owner & Managing Director, AJS - Architekturbüro